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Car Sales

Volume 115: debated on Wednesday 29 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of new cars sold in the United Kingdom are imported; and how this compares with 1986.

Imports accounted for 49·4 per cent. of the United Kingdom car market in the first quarter of 1987, as against 56 per cent. for 1986 as a whole. This is a welcome change in trend and powerful evidence of the appeal of British products.

Those figures are welcome. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that Austin Rover has had its best export figures for seven years. As the buyers in Spain, Japan and the United States are demonstrating their confidence in British products, as shown by record sales to those countries, does my hon. Friend agree that the British people could ably demonstrate their concern about unemployment by ensuring that they seek wherever possible to buy British motor cars and other British products?

I entirely endorse my hon. Friend's remarks and his comments on the substantially improved export performance of the Rover Group. The Rover Group's share of the market in the first quarter of 1987 was 16·5 per cent. This shows welcome growth compared with the whole of 1986, when the share was substantially lower. There is plenty of room to demonstrate that, in terms of consumer choice, the Rover Group's products are beginning to meet demand.

For the purpose of the figures on imports, if a car is designed in Japan, built with Japanese components and has a Japanese badge on the front but is screwed together in this country, does the Minister regard it as a British car, or as a Japanese car?

As the hon. Gentleman knows very well, if the investment is made within this country and the vehicle is put together in a development or assisted area, there should be 60 per cent. of local sourcing for it to qualify as a European product.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one way to stem the tide of imports is to produce the sort of cars that the British public want? Is it not, therefore, good news that the Rover Group and Honda have agreed to proceed with the new R8 range of cars, using the best expertise from both countries to build a range of cars which we hope will establish a sound substantial market share within the European market within a short time? Is this not a good sign of job security at Longbridge in particular, which will have the task of building this good range of cars?

My hon. Friend is right and, as he knows, the developments with the Honda company continue to improve. This is the fourth occasion on which there has been a joint agreement to manufacture a motor car which has been jointly developed. From that point of view, the position of the Rover Group in relation to Honda is steadily improving, to the benefit of the workers in both companies.